Best Alternatives to Adobe Illustrator for iOS and Mac

Posted:
in General Discussion edited June 16
Adobe Illustrator used to be the gold standard for graphic design for years, but due to an increasingly expensive subscription model, many users are moving away from it. Here's our list of our favorite vector-based design software.

best alternatives to adobe illustrator for ios and mac


It's no surprise that many people have been migrating away from Adobe products over the last several years. Adobe has moved to a subscription model that averages $56-$80 a month if a user needs to use more than one Adobe product at a time, something likely untenable for the average hobbyist. With a flood of pay once, use forever software hitting the market, users have no short supply of programs to choose from, especially when looking to replace Illustrator.

Affinity Designer (iOS - $20, currently on sale for $16, macOS - $50, currently on sale for $40)




Affinity Designer is far and away the most polished and feature-packed app on this list, especially considering you can get it as a mobile app as well. Sure, the desktop Mac and PC apps are good, but the iPad app is an extremely powerful program that gives users the chance to design on the go.

Designer functions almost exactly like Illustrator, making it the best one-to-one swap on our list. Our only major critique of Affinity Designer is that, as of the current version, there is still no feature that is analogous to Illustrator's image trace, which we find to be one of the most useful features of the program.

If you are familiar with Illustrator, you'll be able to navigate Designer, though you'll have to work through a certain amount of muscle memory that won't transfer over directly. Artists new to vector design may find Affinity a little daunting due to the rather dense UI.

If you are new to vector design programs or if you're working with a decade or two of Adobe muscle memory, you may want to pick up the Affinity Designer workbook. We have a copy and find it to be extremely helpful in teaching the basics of both Designer as well as vector design.

As of June 5th, the desktop version of Affinity Designer has been revamped to work even better with macOS. The iOS version has also seen some performance and UI updates as well.

Graphic (iOS - $9, macOS - $30)




Graphic is one of the more beginner-friendly vector programs we've run across. Its UI is hands down the easiest to navigate out of our list, and thus our pick for anyone who is new to vector graphic design.

There are also plenty of user guides for Graphic, which help users both understand the program, as well as vector design itself.

Graphic has made extra accommodations for those who are using the program for technical drawings. One step dimensional and arrow-head lines are a breeze, allowing designers to quickly mark up their designs for technical projects.

The iOS version of Graphic is also highly optimized for the Apple Pencil, and users can create dynamic brushes to meet their specific illustration needs. It also supports Smart Keyboard shortcuts, which instantly makes the program feel quite a bit more like a full desktop program.

Graphic also allows users to import and export PSD, PDF, and SVG files, create their own vector-based brushes, and supports unlimited layers.

Amadine (macOS - $20)




Amadine falls somewhere between Affinity Designer and Graphic in complexity, and may very well be the best for intermediate users.

The UI is quite a bit more pared down from Affinity Designer or Illustrator. We found it easy to pick up the program without much effort. Amadine has also created a series of tutorials for users new to the program.

Most of the mainstay tools you'll find in Illustrator you'll also find in Amadine, including the ability to put text to paths, layer effects, and stroke pressure sensitivity for those using external graphics tablets. Amadine also allows users to import and export work as JPEG, TIFF, PNG, EPS or PDF file formats.

Amadine does not currently have an iOS app, but says that one is in development.

Inkscape (macOS - free)




Inkscape is a free, open-source GNU-based vector program, making it an attractive option for those who are just starting with vector image creation. It is a fairly straightforward take on Illustrator, with most, if not all of the same features available.

If you are familiar with Illustrator's UI, Inkscape can be hard to get used to. There are a plethora of Inkscape tutorials available, both at Inkscape's website and the internet at large. We highly suggest new users utilize them.

Fortunately, unlike most other Illustrator dupes, Inkscape does have an image trace feature called "Trace Bitmap," which we see as indispensable in a vector program.

If you want it to work with macOS, there is a bit of a caveat. Inkscape will not work out of the box, and must be installed via MacPorts, either as an X11 build or a native Quartz build. The developers of Inkscape highly recommend that any users stick with the X11 build for stability's sake.
«1

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 725member
    I've used Graphic since it was iDraw. A very easy to use program. Great for diagrams and quick drawings.

    For the last year I've been using Affinity Designer. It is quite powerful and even after a year I've only scratched the surface of what it can do. Be aware, the learning curve is near vertical at first. But don't let that dissuade you, it's a fantastic program with both vector graphic and bitmap tools. You can even mix them in the same drawing.
    edited June 16 lordjohnwhorfin
  • Reply 2 of 27
    redhotfuzzredhotfuzz Posts: 298member
    The Affinity apps are absolutely stellar. Definitive must-haves for any Mac/iOS user. I wake up at night in a cold sweat thinking about Adobe buying them out at a price they can’t refuse and killing the apps to keep the Creative Cloud dictatorship in place. I can only hope there is some government agency out there that would stop this from happening.

    i do wish Affinity would come out with a Lightroom/Aperture substitute.
    possiblerobottmay
  • Reply 3 of 27
    Affinity Designer and Photo are not just competitive; they're better in nearly every way. The only thing I miss from Illustrator is the blend/replicate feature (not to be confused with blending modes, for which Affinity has incredible support). But, that feature is on their roadmap. With Affinity Publisher coming out, the great triumvirate will be complete. If Affinity (Serif), or a similarly-minded company, were to produce a true After Effects competitor, I feel that the Adobe hegemony could be broken, and the industry would return to robust competition and advancement.
    lolliver
  • Reply 4 of 27
    rezwitsrezwits Posts: 625member
    Thank you for this article, with the impending DOOM that is Catalina, and ARMBooks, or just ArmMacs might have to find some kind of alternative, hopefully Adobe will go app store someday... plus I really want to format my drive Case Sensitve :(


  • Reply 5 of 27
    ajcarrajcarr Posts: 2unconfirmed, member
    What about the venerable Intaglio? This has been around for years and remains my go-to app for vector graphics. It will even let me import and edit PDFs. There's an amazing amount of power in a pretty tiny package, though the UI looks like it came out of Classic Mac OS (but I find nothing wrong with that): https://www.purgatorydesign.com/Intaglio/ There's also OmniGraffle, which has also been around for a while: https://www.omnigroup.com/omnigraffle/ Omni Group have been producing software since the days of NeXTSTEP.
  • Reply 6 of 27
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,405member
    I’ve used Illustrator since Illustrator ‘88 and there’s still no adequate substitute for a veteran vector graphics illustrator. Some challengers offer nice alternatives with a learning curve, but Adobe’s Illustrator is just far, far more refined for doing actual production work. Sorry, that’s just the truth.
  • Reply 7 of 27
    polymniapolymnia Posts: 939member
    DAalseth said:
    I've used Graphic since it was iDraw. A very easy to use program. Great for diagrams and quick drawings.

    For the last year I've been using Affinity Designer. It is quite powerful and even after a year I've only scratched the surface of what it can do. Be aware, the learning curve is near vertical at first. But don't let that dissuade you, it's a fantastic program with both vector graphic and bitmap tools. You can even mix them in the same drawing.
    Illustrator’s learning curve was nearly vertical, too. I came to Illustrator from Freehand back in the 90’s which IMO was much more natural, though not as deeply powerful as AI. 
    edited June 16
  • Reply 8 of 27
    PylonsPylons Posts: 21member
    Glad to see that Inkscape was mentioned. I'm using it every other month to layout illustrations for scientific publications, plus sometimes for designing prints for T-shirts in my spare time.
    I agree with what's written here. It does have a rather steep learning curve, but the basics are fairly easy and there is a lot of tutorials online.
    As it is open-source and available on multiple platforms its user interface is not very Mac-like. For me that's actually an advantage, as I can use the same UI on the Linux workstations at work as I do on my MBP at home.

    Perhaps the nature of vector graphics is somehow not as intuitive as the relation between pixels and painting/drawing on paper/canvas, which may mean that any vector graphics software will have take more learning than we're used to in other software. It is very powerful though, so I'd say it's worth it even if you're just mildly interested in graphic design. (If you're young and/or have a lot of spare time I'd even say it's a great skill to learn to put on your CV.)
  • Reply 9 of 27
    aaarrrggghaaarrrgggh Posts: 1,583member
    Just the other day I was looking for a good tool for technical drawings on iPad. I used to use SketchUp, but I don’t want to use a web app, especially on my iPad while traveling. Look ing forward to trying Graphic.
  • Reply 10 of 27
    camccamc Posts: 31member
    In the professional printing industry, there is simply no way to stay away from Adobe PDF – you will need the Pro version just as you open your door in the morning. As well as a Photoshop + Illustrator bundle, just to be able to deal with the stuff you receive every day from a plethora of colleagues / professionals. 

    Blaming the price tag or the "Adobe Tax" IMHO is just another variant of the narrative that, on a different scenario, blames Apple for making a "Pro" computer that costs money. Of course I remember the good old days when we owned our software in shiny boxes – I still have them in a row somewhere in my office. 
    But I also remember that a full single license used to cost a lot more than we actually pay for one year of the "all apps" bundle.

    Angriness should instead be oriented towards the (bad) way many of these apps run. We still have to deal with countless bugs and flaws that eat system resources for... nothing; and that's not acceptable when you loyally pay month after month, year after year.
  • Reply 11 of 27
    In 2013 I purchased the educational version of Adobe Creative Suite 6 with Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, AcrobatX Pro, for the unbelievable price of $65. These apps will work far into the future as all are 64-bit, except InDesign. Unfortunately, that package is no longer available from Adobe, which now relies on the software rental model. These other programs to replace Illustrator and certainly very good if you can't get the real thing. I am bound by Adobe's license to never sell my version.
  • Reply 12 of 27
    These are all good and fine for people whose hobby is drawing and don't want to be tied to a subscription. But most professional designers are not an island. The job doesn't always start and stop with them. It gets handed off to other professionals. Working with the industry standard Adobe suite saves time and headaches. When you're up against a deadline you don't want a call from the printer or the next person in the chain saying "the client wants to make a change, what program did you do this in?" Many of the design studios I do work for, require that you use Adobe products so that they can edit my files down the road. While alternatives are good and help keep Adobe on its toes there is a definite advantage to using the industry standard in a production situation.
    SpamSandwich13485ravnorodom
  • Reply 13 of 27
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 2,283member
    Adobe ensured I would never again buy software from them (any software company thinking they can expect everyone to pay for software on a subscription can kiss my ass), so I’ve been hoping Affinity products become stable and reliable enough. The iOS version of Affinity Photo was a disappointment for quite some time with bugs that seemed to be pretty obvious to trigger... I’ve not touched it in a while, and it killed my interest in buying it for the Mac.

    I am still using Adobe CS6 on the Mac. At some point, it won’t work any more as I continue upgrading the OS (currently on High Sierra until I have newer hardware). I hope Affinity has become stable and consistent by the time I’m forced to abandon Adobe CS6.
  • Reply 14 of 27
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,405member
    These are all good and fine for people whose hobby is drawing and don't want to be tied to a subscription. But most professional designers are not an island. The job doesn't always start and stop with them. It gets handed off to other professionals. Working with the industry standard Adobe suite saves time and headaches. When you're up against a deadline you don't want a call from the printer or the next person in the chain saying "the client wants to make a change, what program did you do this in?" Many of the design studios I do work for, require that you use Adobe products so that they can edit my files down the road. While alternatives are good and help keep Adobe on its toes there is a definite advantage to using the industry standard in a production situation.
    You are 100% correct. When working as a professional, you adopt professional tools.
  • Reply 15 of 27
    dysamoria said:
    Adobe ensured I would never again buy software from them (any software company thinking they can expect everyone to pay for software on a subscription can kiss my ass), so I’ve been hoping Affinity products become stable and reliable enough. The iOS version of Affinity Photo was a disappointment for quite some time with bugs that seemed to be pretty obvious to trigger... I’ve not touched it in a while, and it killed my interest in buying it for the Mac.

    I am still using Adobe CS6 on the Mac. At some point, it won’t work any more as I continue upgrading the OS (currently on High Sierra until I have newer hardware). I hope Affinity has become stable and consistent by the time I’m forced to abandon Adobe CS6.
    Mac OS Mojave will kill CS6 Photoshop (files will not open) and cripple if not destroy Illustrator. So you'd better have Plan B in place. As a designer who cut his teeth on Illustrator 3 and the original Photoshop (no layers), I have adopted the Affinity products. They are polished and mature, in many ways superior and some ways lacking when compared to their Adobe counterparts.
  • Reply 16 of 27

    These are all good and fine for people whose hobby is drawing and don't want to be tied to a subscription. But most professional designers are not an island. The job doesn't always start and stop with them. It gets handed off to other professionals. Working with the industry standard Adobe suite saves time and headaches. When you're up against a deadline you don't want a call from the printer or the next person in the chain saying "the client wants to make a change, what program did you do this in?" Many of the design studios I do work for, require that you use Adobe products so that they can edit my files down the road. While alternatives are good and help keep Adobe on its toes there is a definite advantage to using the industry standard in a production situation.
    You are 100% correct. When working as a professional, you adopt professional tools.
    I agree in principle but not in practice. When the day comes that you (or probably more likely your employer) cannot or will not pay the Adobe ransom, you'd better hope the Affinity products are still around. Otherwise, good luck with opening and modifying your Adobe files.
  • Reply 17 of 27
    I’ve used Illustrator since Illustrator ‘88 and there’s still no adequate substitute for a veteran vector graphics illustrator. Some challengers offer nice alternatives with a learning curve, but Adobe’s Illustrator is just far, far more refined for doing actual production work. Sorry, that’s just the truth.
    SpamSandwich, I used to feel this way too. But, especially since version 1.7 came out, I'd encourage you to take a deeper look at Affinity Designer. With all that Illustrator muscle memory built up over the years, it can feel weird and disorienting at first, no doubt. Now though, when I open Illustrator, I think: eww, this is slow and gross. The initial hook for me was the shear blinding speed of the thing. Then I got to know the tools.

    Also, a note about PDF for people wondering — Any decent app, including the Affinity apps, will offer good PDF export options. I do a lot of print-ready work, CMYK and all, and Designer handles PDF export like a champ, with all the bells and whistles.
  • Reply 18 of 27
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,405member
    MicDorsey said:

    These are all good and fine for people whose hobby is drawing and don't want to be tied to a subscription. But most professional designers are not an island. The job doesn't always start and stop with them. It gets handed off to other professionals. Working with the industry standard Adobe suite saves time and headaches. When you're up against a deadline you don't want a call from the printer or the next person in the chain saying "the client wants to make a change, what program did you do this in?" Many of the design studios I do work for, require that you use Adobe products so that they can edit my files down the road. While alternatives are good and help keep Adobe on its toes there is a definite advantage to using the industry standard in a production situation.
    You are 100% correct. When working as a professional, you adopt professional tools.
    I agree in principle but not in practice. When the day comes that you (or probably more likely your employer) cannot or will not pay the Adobe ransom, you'd better hope the Affinity products are still around. Otherwise, good luck with opening and modifying your Adobe files.
    It just depends on your workflow, if you work in a multi-seat/workgroup environment and if your vendors are using industry standard tools or not. For jobs that go to print, Adobe’s experience in that area is unmatched. For stuff that just ends up on the web, there’s a little more leeway to adopt niche tools as long as they export to standardized formats.
  • Reply 19 of 27
    1348513485 Posts: 73member
    MicDorsey said:

    You are 100% correct. When working as a professional, you adopt professional tools.
    I agree in principle but not in practice. When the day comes that you (or probably more likely your employer) cannot or will not pay the Adobe ransom, you'd better hope the Affinity products are still around. Otherwise, good luck with opening and modifying your Adobe files.
    And what idiot employer (I know there are indeed some) would hamstring an entire department, or even a designer or two, by opting out of the industry standard for a limited acceptability replacement? Yes, these alternatives work for some in internal or localized cases, but there is a reason there is an "industry standard".

    I can second all the examples the pro-Adobe folks have raised here, including one of my own where I had 36 hours to get a final output...and the printer wouldn't accept the file type I submitted from another well known app.

    I lost at least a couple of my three score and ten on that one alone...I went to FirstTech in south Minneapolis, bought the Adobe app, installed the many floppy disks, opened the app, cold-read the manuals, redid the artwork, and drove the saved file 400 miles (no real internet transfer available) to Chicago to the printer, got there at 12:30 in the AM and shoved the file into the hands of the production head. Then I drove all the way back to Minnesota to await the Federal Express (wasn't even "Fedex" then) shipment the next morning. Perfect. Miracles do happen.

    But never again. Standards mean something.


    SpamSandwichravnorodom
  • Reply 20 of 27
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 1,450member
    Interesting.
    Subscription == extortion
Sign In or Register to comment.